For many Jewish families, the first night of Hanukkah is the most important one. It opens the entire eight-day celebration. You can celebrate the first night of Hanukkah by preparing Jewish traditional foods, lighting the Hanukkah menorah, saying special prayers, and exchanging gifts. Jewish games like the dreidel and the Hanukkah gelt hunt are also played during the holiday.
1. Clean house. Get in the Hanukkah spirit by decorating with Hanukkah decorations.
2. Clean the menorah, which is undoubtedly covered with old melted wax. If you're using a brand new menorah, check and make sure you have the right size candles for it. (Do that with an old menorah, too.)
3. Fill the menorah with candles. Put in eight candles for the eight nights of Hanukkah and one shamash (helper) candle. The menorah goes in a window to illuminate the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days. Or is can be placed in a doorway opposite the mezuzah, which holds the prayers for entering a Jewish home.
4. Gather the family around the menorah at sundown. Using the shamash, light the first Hanukkah candle, and say the Hanukkah blessings. When lighting candles, the first candle is on the far right ~ the same order as Hebrew writing.
5. Prepare a festive meal, with traditional Hanukkah fare, such as latkes, sufganiyot, and blintzes. Latkes recipe below.
6. Tell the story of Hanukkah ~ of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil light that lasted for eight days.
7. Play the dreidel game and sing Hanukkah songs.
8. Give the children some Hanukkah gelt.
9. Give gifts to poor children, or donate to a favorite charity.
More information here.
Here's that latkes recipe I promised you.
Yukon Gold Potato Latkes
1½ pounds onions, peeled and quartered
3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ c. flour
3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
2¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Place onions in food processor. Using On/Off switch, chop. Transfer onions to large bowl. Using the grating blade, grate the potatoes coarsely. Mix the potatoes with the onions to prevent discoloration. Fill the bowl with water and rinse out some of the starch. You may want to do this a few times.
Drain the onions and potatoes in the colander. Then wrap in a cloth towel and squeeze out the excess moisture.
Return the potato mixture to the large bowl, and mix together with the eggs, flour, parsley, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Stir until mixture is well-blended and sticks together slightly.
Put enough oil in a heavy skillet to cover the bottom generously. Heat over medium high heat.
Working in batches, drop potato mixture into the oil. Use a spatula to flatten into latke shapes. Fry until crisp and brown. Flip and do the same on the other side. Re-heat the oil between batches, adding more oil as necessary.
When they are cooked, place the latkes on a baking sheet in a 250° oven.
Latkes can be made 4 hours ahead and reheated in a 350° oven.
Serve with applesauce and sour cream or crème fraiche.
My ornaments can be purchased here and here.
Some fun Hanukkah craft projects can be found at the Creative Jewish Mom right here.